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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2731

(Question No. 1402)

Senator Reynolds asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 25 September 1986:

(1) Is the Minister for Health aware that a major project concerning the development and characteristics of all children born in 1987 in the Townsville/Thuringowa district is to be conducted by the Education Department at the James Cook University of North Queensland in conjunction with local practitioners and medical and welfare groups.

(2) Is it estimated that this will involve approximately 2,000 children who will be required to be seen initially 6 monthly and thereafter yearly by medical practitioners to record growth data and other medical characteristics; if so can the Minister undertake to examine the possibility of allowing these visits to the general practitioners to be bulk-billed as an item 7 consultancy so that no charge will be borne by the parents and to ensure the success of such a major project.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) The project to which the honourable senator refers is sponsored by Professor Paul Berry, Head of the Education Department, James Cook University. In response to an earlier inquiry, Professor Berry has recently been advised by my Department that the proposed research project would come within the scope of sub-section 19 (5) of the Health Insurance Act which precludes the payment of Medicare benefits for screening services (ie. medical examinations or tests not reasonably required for the management of the medical condition of the patient) unless otherwise directed by me. Further, it would be inconsistent with the Government's budgetary strategy of restraint to permit the payment of Medicare benefits for medical examinations/tests performed on apparently well children. Medicare is a universal health care scheme established to assist eligible persons in meeting the cost of essential medical treatment. It was never intended, nor is it appropriate, for the Medicare arrangements to be used as a financial mechanism for subsidising, or partly subsidising research projects, regardless of the merits of the project.